story and photos by pablo deferrari
Ah, fucking hell!
My wife pulled up to our drive with a flat tire, and the outer lip of the rim resembled the edges of a lettuce leaf...it wasn't the first time, nor would it be the last. Standing there, beer in hand, I took a good long pull, got down on my knees, and examined the carnage. It was always in the back, and always on the passenger side. What makes matters worse is that by the time she realized she had a puncture, which is very difficult to tell, it was already too late.
Big deal, so, what’s the problem?
Having 18” 3-piece wheels, sidewalls with a profile of a rubber band, and traveling on the shittiest roads this side of Mumbai; oh, and the wheels and their spares are no longer made. Those were the problems.
"...the outer lip of the rim resembled the edges of a lettuce leaf."
Now I’m sure you’re asking yourself why would anyone place themselves in such a position and put up with it. I’ll tell you why; they just look so damned good that you’d defy all rational thought and continue being an imbecile for vanity’s sake. You could always part with them and go with something a bit more practical, but that’d be too easy. So what’s to be done?
While repairing the outer lip (the piece that always gets the worst damage) through wheel specialists can only be done once or twice before the aluminum fatigues and is rendered useless, you have to rely on suppliers with plenty of spares or the means to fabricate your piece to help. That’s the first step.
Utilizing this vital knowledge I’m sharing with you after becoming an expert rebuilding these Kinesis Super Cups nearly half a dozen times, is the second step. This, I guarantee, will make living with these wheels much easier, and finding a good supplier for replacements makes things almost worry free. You’ll save cash, gain confidence, and claim bragging rights on how you can rebuild any wheel. So here we go, then.
Right, tools needed for the job:
a nice block of wood
some sort of "V" or "L" shaped sharp metal tool (this one is an Xacto)
a piece of acrylic or some sort of hard plastic with nice sharp edges
6"-8" 3/8" extension
8mm *12 point socket
torque wrench (3/8" drive)
dow corning 832 RTV (could also use grey Permatex RTV)
a case of Schlitz...
Before we get into it, I wanted to show you a close up of the Dow Corning stuff the professionals apparently use. Now, I've used the grey Permatex with excellent results, I just wanted to try the good stuff to see what it was all about.
In the end they were very similar; their compounds were much stiffer than regular Home Depot type silicone RTV which I thought had too much flex. Anyway, I Googled this 832 stuff and found only 1 company that had it and it was a hassle to just buy 2, they wanted some silly minimum order like 6 or something. I'll have to look for the receipt to let you know where it came from.
The other thing I wanted to point out is the "V" tool I used to help scrape out the old RTV from between the two halves...I suppose any similar tool you may have will work, I just happened to have this guy handy at the time.
You know, there's so many of these little bolts, I just never bothered to count them simply because I just don't have the patience nor anal retention issues. The bolt heads here were of the 12-point varietal in 8mm, so all you need is an 8mm, 12-point socket. Now, you don't want to turn these because the flange under the head of the bolt is serrated, you just counter-hold them on this end.
Working from the inside, you'll want to use a 3/8" drive with a 6"-8" extension and 10mm socket to begin breaking the nuts loose. If they have Loctite, and they should, you'll need to use a little muscle to break them free. Don't worry about breaking the bolts, though, they're pretty tough.
"...it goes buy quicker if you're packing a good buzz."
This is probably the longest part of the process, taking lots of beer breaks really helps...in fact, I find that it goes by quicker and smoother if you're packing a good buzz. Your author swears by this, in fact, on every job you perform on a Porsche.
As you remove each nut and bolt, mate them together and place them in a container of some sort that'll be durable enough to hold our cleaner of choice...old gasoline. Fill up the container enough to cover the bolts and let them soak so that the Loctite begins to soften. I've tried mineral spirits, acetone, carb cleaner, and brake cleaner; none of that shit worked, didn't even loosen the Loctite. One chemical that did work though is stuff called Bestine...I think that can be found in an art supply joint.
Now that the bolts are out, we can begin slicing into the old RTV. Some wheels, like this one, have the center piece sandwiched in between the barrel and the lip providing a wide seam while others manage to hide the center piece and just have a narrow seam between the barrel and the lip.
You'll want to gently slice into the RTV to find your groove and continue in that groove around the circumference of the wheel. Then switch to the other side of the seam (arrows indicate where) and slice into this side like the first. Note that in this picture I removed the RTV from the right side of the seam; this seam would have been filled with RTV to completely hide the seam.
Now with your "V" tool, begin stripping out the RTV from the seam. Be careful not to gouge the aluminum. Get a feel for how much pressure you need to put in and carry on through.
When you've removed all of the RTV, you can now begin to separate the 3 pieces.
First off is the outer lip. Grab a nice sturdy hock of wood and place it on the shoulder of the outer lip and give a couple of whacks. You'll see that it'll start to split and come off the center piece. Don't worry, the lip isn't just gonna fly off at the first whack...it'll gradually split apart.
This is what you're left with when the outer lip is off.
Now we'll pound out the middle section. Be careful with this piece because it's pretty heavy. Do it over grass or a cushion or something so that when you pound 'er out, she'll fall on something soft. This piece may be stubborn so have a little patience.
Lay the pieces out, stand back and admire your handiwork...now's a great time to take a good long pull from the beer can...
Now we can start cleaning the individual pieces beginning with the inner barrel (same for outer barrel if it is going to be reused). Using a razor blade, slice off the RTV working your way around the circumference of the barrel. You don't need to go crazy here, just enough to get the majority of the RTV off. If the flange part of the barrel happens to have RTV, remove the excess using the same method.
Next, use a piece of acrylic or some other hard plastic with sharp edges to scrape off the remaining bits of RTV. You can apply lots of pressure here since the plastic won't gouge the aluminum. Rotate the piece of plastic as the sharp edge becomes dull; this ensures a speedy removal of the RTV.
Repeat the last two steps for the center piece which is the easier of the two to clean...
Once you have the majority of the RTV off there should only be very thin traces of it left. At this point you can use some coarse steel wool to rub the rest of it off. If it's stubborn, spray some carb cleaner or goof-off on the tough bits and continue rubbing it away until you're left with a clean surface.
Incidentally, I can't look at steel wool with a straight face anymore ever since my friend from Jamaica shared an analogy on how performing cunnilingus is like trying to eat mayonnaise through steel wool...but I'm digressing.
Once you've got all traces of RTV off, give the edges a wipe with a rag dampened with acetone or alcohol...this is the look you're after.
This is the last step in the process before reassembly.
The nuts and bolts you've been soaking all of this time to get the Loctite to soften should be ready to clean. This part sucks. Working with each individual bolt/nut set, we need to remove all traces of Loctite with a combination of steel wool and wire brush peppered with some carb cleaner here and there to help get the grunge off.
The trick to finish each bolt off is to spin the nut in and out of the bolt while it is still wet with solvent. This will help chase the threads and ensure cleanliness. The nut should spin in and out freely...and then on to the next one. I'm fastidious about this step because I want to ensure that the threads are free of Loctite so that it won't throw off the torque value during re-assembly.
Take your three pieces (inner barrel, center piece, outer lip) and assemble them DRY. Line up the bolt holes and if you need too, use a few Philips head screw drivers inserted into the holes to help with alignment.
DO NOT use any sealant, anti-seize, or RTV between the flanges. It's not necessary for properly sealing the halves together. Doing so will have you cursing in German the next time you have to service your wheels. Not only will the stuff will ooze out of every crevice, it'll be a bear to clean it off. Remember DRY ASSEMBLY ONLY.
Once you're satisfied with the fit, you can start bolting it together. Do one nut/bolt combination at a time during re-assembly, this way you won't lose track of what you're doing.
Apply a little Loctite blue gel to the bolt, insert it into any hole, spin the nut on and torque the nut to 16 ft/lbs while counter holding the 12-point bolt (I use the gel Loctite because it won't drip off during assembly).
Now do another nut/bolt combo in the hole directly opposite from the one you just did and repeat in this manner with the rest of the nuts/bolts. This will ensure even torque around the wheel as the nuts are tightened. When all of the bolts are in and torqued, you're ready to apply the sealant between the halves.
Using the sealant of your choice, apply a thin bead into the crevice(s) only. You just need enough to fill the space where the halves meet. No need to make it perfect since you'll be applying a second coat later. Remember, go sparingly on the application because when you smooth it all out, you'll have less waste and less mess.
When the bead is applied, use your finger to smooth it into the crevice while taking the excess off. You can even use a tool with rounded corners if you don't want to ruin your manicure, it works just as well. Don't worry about how sloppy it looks, you can wipe off the excess later. Be careful with this shit, it gets EVERYWHERE.
Wipe up as you go. Remember, don't go nuts to make it look pretty, no one but you and the guy replacing your tire will see your mess/artwork...besides we have to apply one more coat anyway. Let it dry at least 24 hours.
You're now a professional, enjoy the money you saved and the satisfaction that you did a job where you control the quality of the work.